Vattenfall starts up German brown coal-fired plant


* Boxberg R has 675 MW power capacity, cost $1 billion

* Will burn indigenous brown coal, independent of imports

FRANKFURT, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Swedish utility Vattenfall'sGerman unit started up a new coal-fired power stationon Thursday in a rare departure from the country's strategy tofocus on renewable energy and ditch its nuclear power.

The 675 megawatts (MW) Boxberg R plant in the eastern stateof Saxony will be fuelled with local brown coal from an adjacenteastern German mining area and cost 1 billion euros ($1.29billion) to build.

Saxony state premier Stanislaw Tillich said the brown coalwas local, providing for steady power generation and wouldcomplement renewables, such as solar and windpower, whose outputvaries depending on weather patterns.

"Our domestic brown coal is an important partner forrenewable energy because it guarantees security of supply," hesaid in a statement.

Germany last year enacted a law under which its remaining12,696 MW of nuclear capacity will be phased out over the next10 years.

That equates to around half its reliable electricitycapacity - that which is able to run 24 hours a day independentof the weather. This means it needs to find at least partialreplacements through new gas and coal-fired plants.

Local brown coal mining firms say that imported hard coaland gas make utility companies reliant on global fuel prices andavailability. Their product gets around these disadvantageswhile also safeguarding thousands of local jobs, they say.

Boxberg R will bring total capacity at the Boxberg site to2,575 MW, which is enough to supply four million households withpower.

Vattenfall Europe Generation is the operator and VattenfallEuropean Mining the raw materials provider.

($1=0.7751 euros)

(Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

((vera.eckert@thomsonreuters.com)(+49 69 7565 1228 ReutersMessaging: vera.eckert.reuters.com@reuters.net))